B. Yuki Schwartz
Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, Chicago, IL
Phillips MDiv class of 2010
What were you doing before becoming a Phillips student?
I was a copy editor at The Oklahoman, the largest daily newspaper in Oklahoma, where I had worked for 12 years. I also had completed a bachelor’s degree in religious studies at the University of Oklahoma.
What do you plan to do/are you doing with your Phillips education?
My studies at Phillips gave me the foundation for further study and I am pursuing a PhD in Theology and Ethics. I’m also discerning my call to ministry within the UCC and working as the adult education minister at my church. So much of what I learned at Phillips prepared me for both of these callings.
List five words that describe the Phillips community as you’ve experienced it.
Community. Growing. Justice-oriented. Connection. Spirit-led.
What is the change or transformation in the world you want to see and in which you are or hope to participate?
I am focusing on the systemic practices of racism in the United States, particularly the ways racism influences us politically and theologically. The end of racism is an eschatological hope that guides my work and I believe it’s my call as an educator to walk with students and congregations as they confront racism in all its institutional forms and work out practices of resistance together.
How have you changed/did you change during your Phillips educational experience? Consider: core beliefs, understanding of scripture; how you pay attention; how to relate to God, yourself, your neighbor/who you think of as neighbor.
I entered seminary as a fairly “nonreligious” person, “un-churched” for many years. I came to PTS with a goal of getting an academic degree. What I learned was that “Ivory Tower” approach was not for me because it missed out on the most crucial aspect of the Christian experience – community. I was changed and, truly, became a person of faith while I was at the Seminary. Phillips models community extraordinarily well. Community enables us to meet one another to talk, share, question, sit with and listen to one another and to challenge, accept, push and transform each other. Everything we learned in class, we brought into our community at the seminary then carried it forward to our individual congregations and communities. At Phillips, I learned that we experience God with one another and we must be open to others: our friends, our neighbors, and those who challenge and accept us.
Please describe a time at Phillips when you felt challenged, in any way, and where you found support to help meet the challenge.
Coming to seminary as an “un-churched” person whose formative years were spent as a Roman Catholic, the protestant environment was alien to me. Thankfully, my professors and my peers met me where I was/where I am, answered my questions, no matter how elementary, and pushed me to think beyond my limitations.
Name a conversation/vital question that seminary has opened for you and into which you’ve been drawn as a participant, e.g. historical Jesus, scripture interpretation, how to think theologically, what is God doing in the world?
Learning to think theologically was the best gift I received from Phillips. I learned that theology isn’t only academicians talking about abstract, esoteric things. I learned that our theologies determine how we understand others as being made in God’s image, as our neighbor, our sister or brother, and especially in contexts such as immigration, LGBTQ rights, or prison and mass incarceration. How we imagine the earth as God’s creation determines how we approach environmental issues like climate change, industrial regulation and ecological justice. Theology matters. It’s the work of making meaning about the issues of ultimate concern in every moment of our lives.
Can you say anything about how you afforded the education and your assessment of how your scholarship helped?
I doubt very much that I would have been able to afford seminary without the Phillips scholarship and a part-time job. The scholarship covered my tuition, which enabled me to focus on my studies. My part-time work helped cover my living expenses.
Tell us about the relationships you made at Phillips. How does/has your network of friends and colleagues at Phillips shape(d) you? What can you say about these relationships that makes you thankful for the community at Phillips?
I formed the most amazing and diverse relationships at Phillips. We were diverse in places of origin, beliefs and experiences, yet we formed such tight and lasting friendships. We learned that we approach the gospel in different ways and contexts and come from different denominations. We saw an incredible variety in our ways of living and in discipleship. I am so thankful for that, especially as someone who believes in the unity-in-diversity of Christian life.
If you had one sentence to convince someone to choose Phillips, what would you say?
Seminary will change you; you won’t go through that change alone if you go to Phillips.